Putin, Xi to discuss closer gas, financial ties during Olympics visit
In circumvention of US sanctions, Russia and China are expected to sign agreements that would boost their cooperation on various spheres and could see Russia supplying China with gas through several channels.
Russia and China will discuss closer financial and gas ties during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Beijing in light of the Winter Olympics that will take place in two days, the Kremlin said Wednesday.
Moscow is currently examining a long-held idea for a new gas pipeline to China, and it could be one of the 15 agreements that the two leaders are likely to sign during their meeting on Friday, with many more natural gas deals underway, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters.
Putin's attendance at the Olympics marks a very important gesture from Moscow, as the West, spearheaded by the United States, has boycotted the Olympic games in a bid to undermine China, and the Russian leader is one of the few world leaders that will show up at the opening ceremony already heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read: Russia: Games should be "free of politics"
Ushakov said Moscow and Beijing were looking at the possibility of building a new gas pipeline to China through Mongolia, which has been discussed for a long time.
Russia has been delivering gas to China via an existing pipeline, the Power of Siberia, a 4,000 km project, since 2019, and it took Moscow and Beijing around a year to reach an agreement on supply terms.
Putin's visit comes as the West is questioning the reliability of Russian gas supplies to Europe, though Moscow is keen to prove that it has other options even if they do not entail pulling Europe out of its energy crisis.
Hungary and Russia adopted joint plans for cooperation on energy, industry, healthcare, food, and space exploration on Tuesday.
The agreement between Budapest and Moscow on the latter supplying Hungary with fuel until 2036 ensures that the EU member state would be buying fuel at a lower price than it would be on the European market, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
"It is worth noting that the Chinese gas market is the most promising and fastest-growing in the world," Ushakov stressed as China overtook Japan as the world's largest importer of sea-borne liquefied natural gas.
Gas prices in Europe reached all-time highs in December amid soaring demand and limited supply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that saw the economies going in the driver seat once again following a long hiatus that did not require much energy production.
According to Ushakov, Russia and China were pushing for the creation of a financial infrastructure that would overcome any attempt to sanction Moscow or Beijing as the West is threatening sanctions in light of soaring tensions over Ukraine.
The delegation that will arrive in China on Friday will include Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov, and Igor Sechin, CEO of oil major Rosneft, reflecting the seriousness of establishing agreements between the two major powers.